Leo’s Answers #281 – May 3, 2011

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

Would you show me how to burn ISO files?

Can you show me how to burn ISO files? I downloaded this game and it arrived as an .ISO file that windows keeps saying it doesn't know how to open. Someone told me I need to burn it to a disc ... how do I do that?


ISO files are very popular ways to distribute large packages of files that would normally appear on a CD or DVD. The reason is simple: an ISO file is typically a bit-for-bit image of a CD or DVD.

There are several ways to get at the contents of an ISO file. Burning the ISO's contents to an actual disc is the most common.

Continue reading: Would you show me how to burn ISO files?

* * *

How can I tell if my computer is being hacked?

How can I tell if my computer is being hacked?


You can't.

Oh, there are some clues which you might look for, and I'll review a few of those, but ultimately, there's no way for the average computer user to know with absolute certainty that a hacker's not in the process of weaseling in, or that they haven't already.

Perhaps now you understand why I talk so much about prevention.

And I'll talk about it some more.

Continue reading: How can I tell if my computer is being hacked?

* * *

Can hackers sniff my cellphone internet connection?

Say I use my cellphone as a hotspot for my PC and access my email or bank account. Can the sniffers/hackers get direct access to the page that I'm viewing or my account? Or is it like they're just watching me navigate?


This turns out to be a fairly common concern and one which people need to be more aware.

When you're using your cell phone to create a wireless hotspot, you're actually having the phone act as a kind of "translator" between the cellular network and your WiFi-enabled computer.

Each side of that connection has risks, but the risks are dramatically different.

Continue reading: Can hackers sniff my cellphone internet connection?

* * *

Does leaving tabs open in my browser eat up bandwidth?

My brother complains to my dad that his video games are slow because I have tabs open on my browser (formerly, Internet Explorer, now Firefox 4) and I am "chewing up the bandwidth". Usually, one is Facebook and others are miscellaneous blogs. I am not the most computer-savvy person, but I know from computer-savvy friends that bandwidth doesn't work that way. How can I explain to my dad that that's not how bandwidth works and therefore, I don't have to shut down tabs?


Usually, that's not how bandwidth works. I'll certainly agree that it's extremely unlikely that tabs in your browser have anything to do with your brother's video game speed.

But (and there's always a but), there are scenarios where what you're doing in your browser may have an impact.

It's more likely that other things are happening on your system or your network.

Continue reading: Does leaving tabs open in my browser eat up bandwidth?

* * *

What's a "mht" file and how do I reliably share them with others?

I have been using Opera as my web browser for about two months. I am running Windows 2000 on a Gateway P4-1300 and I am generally happy with it. Before Opera, I used Internet Explorer 6. I like to keep files with interesting text and graphics available for reference, thus I have downloaded a lot of ".htm" files. What IE6 downloads as .htm, Opera downloads as ".mht". When I send these to friends by attaching them to email, frequently my friends are unable to read them; that is, unable to read .mht files. At that point, I am not always able to send them a URL instead of the file. Moreover, when I am offline and I attempt to read one of these .mht files, I invoke Opera, which I do not want to do. I want to know two things: 1. Is there a way to set up Opera to download .htm instead of .mht? 2. Is there a way to convert all of my .mht to .htm and if so, what is it? I have nothing against using fourth-party software, but I prefer that it be free. Because of this problem, I will soon give up Opera and go on to something else. But, even if I buy a new machine, I will still want to convert .mht to .htm.


.mht and .htm files are two related, yet quite different things. Both contain the web page that you might be viewing, but only one contains all of the web page that you're viewing.

To understand why that is, and from that, understand what you might want to do, we need to look at how web pages are constructed and what happens when you try to save one.

Continue reading: What's a "mht" file and how do I reliably share them with others?

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*** Last Week's Articles

*** Comments

How can I backup my computer to that of a friend's remotely?

Michael Horowitz writes:

The security of Dropbox hosted files is apparently poor, employees of the company are able to decrypt your files. The other Leo (Laporte) suggested wuala.com which competes with Dropbox but claims to be unable to decrypt your files on their servers. He hadn't actually used it however.

The Security Now podcast from April 20, 2011 described a security flaw in the Dropbox software. Apparently, copying a single file is all that's needed for a bad guy to impersonate you with Dropbox. Even if you change your Dropbox password, the bad guy with that critical file is still you, as far as Dropbox is concerned.

As for the common offsite backup providers, there is a hidden gotcha with some of them. I blogged about this here Why your backups may disappear

In brief, they do replication rather than backup. Thus, if you accidentally delete a file on your computer, many providers will delete the backup of that file.

There is also another option: you can roll your own VPN. Windows XP Professional and some versions of Windows 7 (not sure which) are able to act as a VPN server. Probably Vista can do it too, not sure. Also not sure about Macs.

The upside is that by acting as your own VPN server, no extra software needs to be installed and thus no trust needs to be placed in any third party. And, its free forever. The downside is that its a bit techie to set up.

Finally, yet another option: sibling NAS boxes. Some (many?) Network Attached Storage devices are able to replicate the data they hold to another NAS box. They do incremental backups using rsync. Thus, its best to fully mirror the two boxes initially. Offsite replication can even be scheduled for off-hours. I haven't tried this yet, but would love to some day. Its a bit pricey however.


A computer crash lost my Outlook data file - what should I use instead of Outlook to prevent this in the future?

Audrey writes:

No one should "store" information in an e-mail program. The back-up files Outlook generates are not easy to access. I've had several computer crashes now and each time, a computer technician retrieved all my files from the dead computer, except the data in Outlook. Use the right software tool for the job--you know, you can drive a nail with the handle of a screw driver, but a hammer works better.


A computer crash lost my Outlook data file - what should I use instead of Outlook to prevent this in the future?

Tim writes:

I'll second the comment that your email client is not the best place to store data.

With hard disks so inexpensive these days (a Terabyte is under $100) there's really no reason to NOT have a RAID type disk mirror as a first line of defense to computer disk crashes. This of course is not a backup. An external USB or Firewire hard drive is also inexpensive provides a fairly safe spot for an entire image of your computer every week or so and more frequent backups of your documents, photos, data, etc.

Some items may be really critical. You can protect it from theft or natural disaster by using Dropbox, burning to a DVD and putting it in your safe deposit box, etc.

These things are inexpensive, but of course not free. The question becomes is the money spent on this "insurance" worth more or less than the time you have invested in creating the information you could easily lose?


How can I tell if my computer is being hacked?

Ken B writes:

Well, everyone's first step should be to hire my wife and have her check it out. :-)

A few more signs that your system has been compromised...

* You can't get to Windows Update, or it always fails to determine if any updates are available.

* Your anti-virus/anti-malware programs can't get updates. Or you can't get to any of the major AV sites.

* Your internet connection is "mostly" fine, but you can't get to some websites. In particular, sites for download/discussing anti-virus/anti-malware programs. For example, you can't get to majorgeeks.com or bleepingcomputer.com

* Your anti-virus/anti-malware programs "mysteriously" crash.

Many forms of malware actively try to prevent the "good" programs from running or getting updates, to prevent them from removing the infection.

*** Leo Recommends

ImgBurn - Free CD/DVD Burning Tool

There are many CD burning tools out there, including several popular free ones as well as several commercial ones. In fact, there's a good chance you might have a trial version of on of the commercial products on your machine right now - they're often included in the pre-installed software.

I use ImgBurn: it's free, it's lightweight, it does more than I'd ever need, and it's relatively easy to use.

I say that it's "relatively" easy to use, because its interface can be just a tad intimidating to the first time user. To overcome that, let me show you how to do a few common operations using ImgBurn.

Continue reading...

ImgBurn - Free CD/DVD Burning Tool


Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I've found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles

Ever get spam from yourself? Or have someone ask you to stop sending them stuff that you never sent? Yes, there's a rash of account hacks right now, but in fact your account might not be hacked at all. It's very possible that spammers are just spoofing the From: address. Here's one way:

How do spammers send email that looks like it comes from me?

OK, I know that spammers can send email spoofing the "From:" address to make it look like it came from me. But how? How do they gain access to my account to do that?

First let me be very clear: they don't have to have access to your account. In fact, 99.99% of the time they don't. 99.99% of the time it has nothing at all to do with your account, and your account is quite safe.

They only need your email address.

And this is the concept that's fairly difficult for most folks to grasp: while your email account and your email address are related, they are not necessarily the same thing.

Continue reading...
How do spammers send email that looks like it comes from me?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Think twice before you click on anything Osama Bin Laden related.


If you want information about the news then visit a news source that you trust and go looking for more specific or current information.

In particular, don't click on Osama-related links on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media source you use - at least not without carefully evaluating the link as best you can.

The problem is that the scammers have come out in force. As reported by several news outlets, Scammers are using Osama Bin Laden's death to spread malware on Facebook, Google and more. (If you don't want to click on that Osama-related link, it's to an article you can find out on Huffington Post. Smile)

Within moments of the breaking news promises of videos and photographs and who-knows-what else began circulating. Of course the majority were fake. They were simply attempts to capitalize on our insatiable curiosity for more, teasing us with phrases like "banned video!", and "what they don't want you to see!".

Of course there is no such video - at least not that these people have. Only after you run through some hoops to take part in the scam do you finally come out the other side empty handed with your machine compromised or your account possibly hacked.

Social media was once again a fine source for breaking information and individual commentary, but as soon as you want something more in-depth, hit the news or other websites you already know and trust.

You really don't know who's behind the re-tweets, the shares or whatnot that you'll find on sites like Twitter, Facebook and others. Even when they appear to be from people you know they might not be. Once someone falls for them the most popular scams often cause fake postings to be placed on their accounts designed to lure even more victims.

This isn't anything really new - I just wanted to remind everyone to exercise caution when dealing with these types of things.

Any time there's breaking or a hot topic in the news you'll find the scammers there as well.

Be careful.

'till next week...

Leo A. Notenboom
Twitter - Facebook

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Posted: May 3, 2011 in: 2011
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4809
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